Iceland had planned to make a splash this year in the hotly contested battle for the title of most memorable Christmas advert with a hard-hitting animated offering spotlighting the role of palm oil in driving rainforest destruction.
The supermarket was hoping to showcase its decision to stop using palm oil in its products, while raising awareness of the controversial commodity’s environmental impacts.
But the retailer has been left “extremely disappointed” by a decision this week to not approve the advert for broadcast by Clearcast, the organisation which enforces advertising standards on behalf of the four commercial TV broadcasters in the UK.
The advert depicts a baby orangutan causing havoc in a girl’s bedroom, before the animal explains that it has been forced out of its rainforest home by humans developing the land for palm oil plantations.
The film, titled ‘Rang-tan’, promotes Iceland’s range of palm oil-free festive foods, announced last month as an extension to its high-profile pledge to remove palm oil from all its own label brands by the end of April 2019.
Palm oil is a highly controversial ingredient, with green groups accusing suppliers of the widely used commodity of fueling deforestation in South East Asia, leading to increased greenhouse gas emissions and habitat loss.
But some have criticised Iceland’s decision to remove the ingredient entirely, arguing the decision damages cross-industry efforts to secure a certified deforestation-free supply chain for palm oil.
Clearcast said it rejected the Rang-tan advert on the grounds it does not comply with the political rules set out in the Broadcast Code of Advertising Practice (BCAP).
According to the BCAP, commercial adverts prohibit “political advertising”, including campaigning for the purposes of influencing legislation or executive action by local or national (including foreign) governments.
In a statement Clearcast suggested the advert does not clear this hurdle. “Clearcast and the broadcasters have to date been unable to clear this Iceland ad because we are concerned that it doesn’t comply with the political rules of the BCAP code,” it said. “The creative submitted to us is linked to another organisation who have not yet been able to demonstrate compliance in this area.”
But Iceland said the advert – which would have been backed by more than £500,000 of media spend – would have raised awareness among Christmas shoppers of the impact palm oil production is having on the world’s rainforests.
“Throughout 2018 we have led the retail industry to take action in areas such as rainforest destruction for palm oil and plastic pollution of our oceans,” said managing director Richard Walker. “This year we were keen to do something different with our much anticipated Christmas advert. The culmination of our palm oil project is offering our customers the choice of an orangutan-friendly Christmas, and we wanted to reflect this in our advertising.”
He said he still hoped consumers would be able to watch the video. “Whilst our advert sadly never made it to TV screens, we are hopeful that consumers will take to social media to view the film, which raises awareness of an important global issue,” he said. “Our commitment to help protect the home of orangutans remains extremely close to our hearts. We are proud to be encouraging consumers to make more sustainable choices, even without the support of TV advertising, ahead of the Christmas shopping season.”